“They walk too slow.”
“They travel in packs.”
“They’re crowding up the dining halls.”
These are only a few of the complaints that I’ve heard from various people about the new first years at Yale. I remember getting to campus in the afternoon of Aug. 20 — the campus was gloriously empty. The Branford College courtyard was gleaming in the evening sun. The Stiles College dining hall was filled with upperclassmen, but not to a frustrating extent. The streets were peaceful and the sidewalks were navigable.
Then came the morning of Aug. 21. I woke up bright and early to start my shift with the Branford move-in crew, which ended up being more of a four-hour strength workout than work. It was here that I received my first impressions of the Yale class of 2026, as they pulled up to the Vanderbilt driveway in their SUVs jam-packed with anything and everything imaginable. From cartons of soda to flatscreen TVs, these kids seemed to be prepared for anything that might come their way. I found it hard to believe how these incoming first years managed to fit so many IKEA bags and yoga mats and mini fridges into their cars. And, yet, I was even more perplexed at how they were going to fit it all in their suites. The chaos was palpable in those common rooms … multiple suitemates, their parents and everything they could find at Target were crammed onto each floor of Vanderbilt Hall.
But can I really blame them? Can I really reprimand their hoarding tendencies and zealous parents? Or their bright faces as they set their eyes on Vanderbilt Hall for the first time? They’re first years, after all. They don’t know any better. They wouldn’t know about the dangers of overpacking. Or about the small size of the closets — or wardrobes if you’re unlucky. Or about the horrifically tiny doubles on Old Campus. These are things you learn along the way, usually as you start unpacking and run out of surface and drawer space within five minutes.
We were all as clueless once as they are now, mixing up lecture halls and getting lost in basements. The problem I think upperclassmen at Yale really have with the class of 2026 is not how they’re glued together in groups as they walk down the street. Or how they’re sometimes completely oblivious to people behind them on the sidewalk that have places to be and people to see. Or how they completely took over the only dining halls open during Camp Yale. It’s instead an issue of jealousy.
Nobody likes to admit that they’re envious of what another person has — it’s an admission of vice. Sometimes jealousy of another person’s life feels like a weakness, like a sentiment we’re never supposed to feel. Sometimes life tells us that we should always be perfectly content with what we’ve had and what we have, that wanting something we cannot have is shameful.
This is bogus. We’re not perfect people in any capacity. It might be fruitless to have feelings of jealousy, but it’s human. And I believe that the upperclassmen are maybe, just possibly, the tiniest bit envious of the class of 2026. That they are getting the classic and normal Yale experience that we never had. It’s only instinct to feel a twinge of jealousy or to think to yourself every once in a while, “They don’t realize how lucky they are.”
But while they might not realize how incredible it is to finally be experiencing Yale at nearly its full extent, that does not give us the excuse to pester them. In fact, it makes me so happy that they don’t have to deal with struggles and stresses that have plagued Yale for the past two years. No Arnold and McClellan Hall fiascos. No biweekly testing. No two-week residential college prison sentences. No Zoom classes. No required masking in spaces outside of class. Things are going to be as close to normal as they can get for these first years, and though I wish it had been that way for me, I’m happy for them.
Seeing their optimism for the future and their nervous excitement about college was inspiring. If anything, I’m not jealous of the opportunities ahead of them, but of their blank slates. They are at a point in their lives when anything is possible, where the world is theirs for the taking. Whatever they dream of is within reach. As a FOOT leader this year, I got to see some of this hopefulness firsthand. Their eyes shone with curiosity towards everything they encountered. They were brimming with enthusiasm for all that life has to offer. They were, and still are, the younger versions of ourselves just wanting to find happiness and somehow make a mark in the world along the way.
So, the first years might still travel in packs, crowd up the best dining halls and walk way too slowly down the already-cramped York Street sidewalk; yet, had we been in their position in our first years, I guarantee we would have done the same. I wish the first years the best of luck in their four years at Yale. I hope that they cherish those years and make the absolute most of them.